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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A Much Maligned Film That Has Many Merits

    SUGAR is one of those films that polarizes audiences: there are those who loathe the 'bad rap' it presents of the gay underground life and there are those that are in the Bravo camps of the stars. Based on short stories by Bruce La Bruce, SUGAR takes a look at the dark side of male prostitution in Toronto, hustlers on drugs, warpy families (and lack of family), and the idiosyncrasies of johns. And if these topics present a problem to viewers, then this is probably not a film to recommend.However, for those who want a ground-level view of the world of male hustlers in Canada (and everywhere in the big cities around the world), then this script by Todd Klinck as directed by John Palmer rolls like a kaleidoscope of constantly changing aspects of this corner of society.Cliff (Andre Noble) is celebrating his 18th birthday watching and acting out on his sexual confusion. His family consists of a mother (Marnie McPhail) who at least tries to be a supportive contemporary mom, and a bizarre sister Cookie (Haylee Wanstall) who requires Ritalin to maintain some semblance of normalcy while being very in tune with the 'world' Cliff is attempting to enter.After a birthday at home, Cliff wanders the streets of Toronto and accidentally (?) encounters a cruising site for gay hustlers, tranies, and prostitutes. His flat affect is suddenly changed and the world that embraces his closeted gay bent opens up to him. His eyes fall on one Butch (Brendan Fehr) and for the first time in his life he has physical contact with another person! Butch is stunningly handsome, has a warm heart, flirts with Cliff yet warns him they cannot be anything but friends. Cliff falls in love, follows Butch through his various johns, partakes in Butch's always expanding drug habit, and eventually is used in an encounter for one of Butch's tricks - an encounter that breaks Cliff's idealistic infatuation with a moment of reality.From that moment the film winds down with some tragic events permanently altering Cliff's view of the world and his place in it. Yes, the story has been used before, but this time along with the expected drug use extremes and deterioration of character, Palmer stalls at significant moments to share some of the sad pathology of various johns in an understanding light. There is a lot of sensitivity with the collection of characters in this film and that is a breath of fresh air.The acting is generally high quality, especially from Brendan Fehr, Andre Noble, Haylee Wanstall, Marnie McPhail, and Sarah Polley. Roles such as Butch and Cliff call for a great deal of courage on the part of actors. While there is considerable frontal nudity on the part of the background hustlers, the 'stars' are allowed to show passion and activity without the focus being on nudity.Though this is a dark film about a dark subject, there is enough 'light' to warrant the attention of a larger public. You just have to really look for it!

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